Marco De Gasperi will make his first attempt at finishing the legendary Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon this weekend. In the following interview, Marco discusses his impressions about the race course, how his training for this race has gone, and some of his mountain running dreams for the future. He also answers whether or not he thinks Kilian Jornet, who has won Zegama six times, is beatable this year.
Be sure to check out our detailed preview of the men’s and women’s fields at the Zegama Marathon to see who else is running this weekend.
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Marco De Gasperi Pre-2014 Zegama Marathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Marco De Gasperi before the 2014 Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon. How are you, Marco?
Marco De Gasperi: Fine, thanks.
iRunFar: You were here last year but not intending to race.
De Gasperi: Yeah, I went because it was important to be here. I planned the race. Unfortunately, I got injured a few months before the race. I had to stop until 15 days to the start of the race. I just went to discover the course and to enjoy the first part of the race.
iRunFar: How did you find that first half of the course?
De Gasperi: The first part of the course is probably the harder part. It’s not as technical as the second part, but most of the part of amount of the climb is in the first part. So it’s difficult for that because of the legs. They will be for sure tired when you arrive on the top of Aizkorri with heavy legs for sure. It’s smart. It’s meaning that you have to just save energy for the second part.
iRunFar: You saw the second part this week?
De Gasperi: Yeah, I went some days before and yesterday had the chance to see the second part. It’s very technical. I understood why people took so long to do the part from Aizkorri Traverse to the last 12k because many, many stones and rocks on the ridge of the Aizkorri makes the course very hard.
iRunFar: Your strength has always been up and down races. You won, was it six times you won the World Mountain Running Championship all on up and down years? So you’re good at both. Are you better at one than the other—climbing or descending?
De Gasperi: Yes. Well, things are changing. I’m getting older. I’m 37 years old. It means that I’m 10 years older than Kilian Jornet, for example. So it’s not really easy, you know, to win such a difficult race. It’s very complicated because probably there are five or six up and down sections in the race. It will be hard for the legs anyway. I’m good at descending for sure. Actually, I’m preferring descending than the uphills, but here the mix is very important.
iRunFar: In road running and track running, as athletes get older, then tend to race longer and longer. They start at 1,500 meters, 10k, marathon. Here you are—you’re running the marathon here. Do you have any thoughts of going further?
De Gasperi: I don’t think so. As you said, people started with the 5k to the marathon. I think in my skills, I never think about longer distances. Many people ask me to try once. It would be probably good for my mind, but actually I’m thinking about more on mountains and big mountains and longer distances. It means coming back to the roots of Skyrunning like Mont Blanc and so on—trying to do some experience that I had when I was very, very younger like 15, 16 years age.
iRunFar: Like real Alpinism?
De Gasperi: It will be. Yeah, it’s something that I would like to. It’s a dream that I will come back in older age and it very, very give me motivation, more motivation to go for the long.
iRunFar: So Mont Blanc might be on your list. Is there anything else you’re dreaming of doing in the coming years?
De Gasperi: I’m not sure. I just came back from the Mount Elbrus [race] last weekend. It was a nice experience. I’ve already done it two years ago. This year, it was not possible to get to the summit with the race because the weather conditions were really bad, but it was a nice experience.
iRunFar: That must be a very different experience because, yes, the races in Skyrunning and mountain running are in the mountains and the weather changes but almost always you’re able to run the start to the finish; whereas if you’re really in the mountains in Alpinism, you can’t always do it.
De Gasperi: Yeah, yeah. For sure. When we are talking about big mountains, it’s complicated. Many things are going to change quickly. It will be a problem and it’s not safe.
iRunFar: How has your training gone for this race?
De Gasperi: Well, I’m coming back from long injuries and took me stopped for six months last year. Now I’m okay with my leg. I started in January. I had a few races. Especially, I just focused on the preparation for to start with the right foot and not to be in problems like the last couple of years I’ve had. So I’m motivated and probably this race will be hard for me because the weather conditions will be probably make some problems for my body. I’m not really a lover of bad weather conditions. I’d prefer 35 degrees of Transvulcania for example. But as you say, everyone is in the same conditions and we need to finish the race and we try to give our best.
iRunFar: You’ve been racing in the mountains around Europe for a very long time. What’s taken you so long to get to such a classic race as Zegama?
De Gasperi: Yeah, probably Zegama is very known and is becoming very popular now, but years ago without the spread of the social network and so on, it was difficult to know this race. Now it’s popular. Only one Italian has won this race, in 2004, Mario Poletti, who was a former Skyrunner and is a good friend of mine. I promised him I would try to be here and maybe try to win depending on some of the other guys have a bad day and who knows?
iRunFar: You’ve also been racing Kilian for a very long time. This sort of seems like Kilian’s race. He’s won four years in a row, at least six times. What is it going to take you or someone else to beat Kilian in this race?
De Gasperi: Honestly, it would be really, really difficult because I saw him yesterday, for example, with our run. We run together on the second part of the race. I look in his eyes and I see he’s very motivated for a win seven times here. When it’s so ready for running, Kilian is very difficult to beat for anyone. It would not be easy, but I think the worse condition of the weather it will be easier for him.
iRunFar: Good luck this weekend. Enjoy the race.
De Gasperi: Thank you very much. Thank you.